Friday, May 01, 2009

Blood and Fire-Part 1, A Review.

A long time ago, David Gerrold wrote an episode for Star Trek-The Next Generation. It was a story that everyone involved knew would be filled with controversy. David blogged about this some time ago, but his old posts are missing due to an extended web site upgrade, so I am going from my own faulty memory about this. I believe Gene Roddenberry had given permission to go ahead with the story, or maybe it was Gene L. Coon, or probably somebody else. In any event, there was a change of power in the Star Trek production universe and the story was nixed. I'm not really up to speed on Star Trek politics. Maybe David will be kind enough to drop by and clarify.

Regardless, the story was never made. It became known as the most famous Star Trek episode there never was. The controversy stirred from the fact that this would be the first time Star Trek ever portrayed openly gay characters. The new brass didn't have the same balls, or chutzpah if you prefer, as did the originals with Roddenberry at the helm. Star Trek aired the first interracial kiss on American prime time television, recall.

David went on to scrapethe serial numbers away and write the story in novel form, setting it in his own Starwolf universe instead. (That one is still on my to-read list, sorry David.) Many years passed, and a guy named James Cawley started filming the last two years of the five year mission as fan-fic. Only, Cawley and his crew did such a damn good job that people like D.C. Fontana, Goerge Takei, and Walter Koenig started getting involved. David saw opportunity and pitched his script to Cawley. A second chance for Blood and Fire was born in the Star Trek universe. This time, with the original crew, which is perhaps where it belongs.

I had the good fortune to be allowed to read the script before filming began, and I have not even allowed that fact to escape except to a trusted few. Nobody but me ever saw my copy of the script. So much time has passed that I don't even recall the full story, but I did comment to David at the time that I thought it was by far his best Star Trek work. Yes, it's even better than The Trouble with Tribbles.

Part one did not disappoint me. See for yourself. Download the first part here. I am going to try not to spoil any of the plot, but there will inevitably be detail spoilers to follow.


The teaser of Blood and Fire opens with combat. The Enterprise is heavily damaged, but they put a pounding on the Klingons who were responsible, too. The visual effects are outstanding, and tension is high. The Klingons are driven off, and Kirk has made up his mind that the Klingons will pay. Then comes a distress signal from the U.S.S. Copernecus, a research vessel some ten hours away at warp 2, the fastest the Enterprise can handle in her condition. As usual, there are no other ships in the area.

After the commercial break, we learn that young Ensign Kirk, the captain's nephew, is aboard serving on the security team. We learn that Ensign Kirk is in love with a male member of the medical staff. The tension mounts as the elder Kirk tries to shield the younger from harm. He relents after a face-to-face and allows Ensign Kirk and his betrothed together on the away team to the Copernecus. There, we find out what really happened, and this I shall not spoil.

Gerrold has put together probably one of the best Star Trek episodes ever made. There is the controversy which is there, and it's as real as it is for many gay people today. There are scenes that will make many people very uncomfortable, but it's also crucial to the plot. This story isn't about homosexuality. You'll have to wait for further comment until part 2 comes out because it would be too much of a spoiler to say any more. Still, the issue is taken head-on.

Before filming, I questioned whether this episode of Star Trek Phase II had its thunder stolen by Brokeback Mountain. Maybe a little bit, but as you can see by looking in the newspaper, the issue hasn't gone away. There is still great disagreement and great philisophical posturing by both sides. Blood and Fire does nothing to apease those who think marriage is between a man and woman, as it should not. This is about two people in love.

But the other side is represented well by Captain Kirk. James Cawley (who also portrays James Kirk) did a fantastic job with his charcter's reaction when he learns about his nephews preferences. We see a chink in the normally resiliant armor of our valient Captain. Kirk doesn't know how to respond when his nephew asks Captain Kirk to officiate over the wedding. The elder Kirk struggles for words at first, but then recovers. Being the hero of the show, he must. He accepts the situation and agrees to do it, not because he likes it, but because it is important to two members of his crew.

This is the way Kirk must react. Kirk has prejudice. We see it, very openly, in Star Trek VI, the Undiscovered Country. Kirk literally HATES the Klingons, but must be the diplomat. We see Kirk struggle through the entire film to stay in control and be the man he is supposed to be, rather than be the man he truly is. We see that again on a much smaller scale in Blood and Fire. Very well executed.

(As an aside, I will risk Star Trek blasphemy by declaring that between Star Trek VI, the Undiscovered Country, and Star Trek II, the Wrath of Khan, VI is the better film. Both are very powerful, but I think VI causes a more important change to occur in Kirk. II is a very close second. Both are better than all the TNG films.)

Back to Blood and Fire, congratulations on getting that scene absolutely right. As for the rest, all I'll say at this point is that there are things that haven't been seen before. To say anything else would spoil part 2, which I won't do. What I will do is stick out my neck and say this is must see Star Trek.

1 comment:

Christopher Fletcher said...

Interesting post, Rick. Cool that you had gotten to see the script! I think I mostly agree with you in your opinions on the Trek movies (II and VI). I'm not certain I would rate VI as the best...but maybe. And yeah, both blow away the TNG movies easily.

This episode was so cool, I can't get over it. I had only seen one of the previous Phase II episodes (I've only recently owned a good enough computer to handle it), but now I'm going to go back and see the rest of them.